SAUGUS — Political change swept through Saugus on Tuesday, where residents voted overwhelmingly to recall four selectmen, ending months of political turmoil.
Incumbents Ellen C. Faiella, Maureen Dever, Paul Allan, and Steven Castinetti were ousted from office, replaced by four challengers who never before held elective office.
Scott Brazis, Jeffrey Cicolini, Jennifer D’Eon, and Mark Mitchell won by as much as 60 percent of the votes cast in the town’s 10 precincts.
About 27 percent of the town’s 17,486 registered voters, or a total of 4,778, cast ballots in the first special election held in Saugus to recall selectmen since 1975.
“I voted for change,” said Beverly Taylor, 63, who moved to Saugus less than a year ago from Virginia. “I don’t know if it’s personalities or politics, but there doesn’t seem to be enough consensus to move the town forward.”
But Jean Poole, a resident of nearly 50 years, said voters had made a mistake.
“I think the four selectmen were wonderful,” Poole said, after checking results at Town Hall. “They did the very best they could for the town.”
The recall centered on the firing of Scott C. Crabtree, a former police officer and selectman who served as town manager for nearly 2½ years. The ousted selectmen accused him of a variety of financial managerial offenses, and voted to fire him on Oct. 29. Selectwoman Debra Panetta, the only board member to vote against firing Crabtree, was not subject to the recall.
The firing angered a group of residents, who formed the political action group Save Saugus to launch the recall.
In just weeks, the group collected nearly 25,000 signatures of registered voters, or more than 5,000 per candidate, meeting the threshold to call for a special election.
But the effort touched off a political uproar marked by allegations of forgery from another political action group, Save Our BOS, which was formed to back the embattled selectmen.
A handwriting analyst hired by the board identified hundreds of questionable signatures on recall petitions certified by Saugus election officials. The group reported the allegations to the secretary of state’s office and to the Essex district attorney’s office, who said they are reviewing the matter.
The four new selectmen ran on a platform to return Crabtree to office. Crabtree has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit to get his job back.
The newly elected selectmen gathered for a victory party at the Prince restaurant on Route 1.
“I think the people wanted a fresh start,” said Cicolini, who said he never promised to restore Crabtree. “We need to bring back a sense of community and collaboration.”
The new board may not get the chance to restore Crabtree. On Monday, a new town manager, Sean Fitzgerald of Peabody, was sworn into office. The outgoing board signed a three-year contract with Fitzgerald.
Castinetti, a selectman for six years, blamed his defeat on a bitter political culture that has engulfed the town in recent months.Kathy McCabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.